09/06/2012 2:07PM

Belmont Park fall meet begins with changes on the horizon

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Tom Keyser
Flat Out is being pointed for a repeat bid in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The gray skies above and the road-construction crews outside the front gates on Hempstead Turnpike on Thursday morning perhaps provided the appropriate backdrop as Belmont Park prepares to commence its fall meeting on Saturday.

The memories of a successful Saratoga season – one in which total handle increased 9 percent – quickly fade when one thinks what lies ahead for the New York Racing Association. An announcement regarding a restructured, state-controlled NYRA board, front-loaded with eight picks by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is imminent. What it will mean for the current management team in place at NYRA and for the future landscape of New York racing is anybody’s guess.

Also imminent is the release of a report by a task force assigned by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to investigate the rash of equine fatalities during Aqueduct’s winter meet. Changes in some protocols are expected as a result of the report, which was given to the governor’s office on Aug. 28.

After eight months of much ballyhooed purse increases, the 37-day Belmont fall meet begins with purse cuts. While the Belmont fall purse structure was not going to remain at the level of the Saratoga season, there are $2,000 to $5,000 cuts in purses from the Belmont spring meeting. Overnight stakes that were worth $90,000 (routes) and $85,000 (sprints) are now worth $85,000 and $80,000, respectively. Maiden and allowance races had their purses cut $2,000-to-$3,000 as well. Cuts to claiming race purses were mandated by the state racing board in April, making sure that no claiming purse was worth more than double the claiming price.

P.J. Campo, a NYRA vice president and its director of racing, said the Belmont fall purse cuts to maiden, allowance, and overnight stakes were in place since the beginning of the year.

“This is the way it was projected out through the year at the beginning of the year,” Campo said.

The traditional stakes had their purses increased 34.6 percent from the 2011 fall meeting, as Belmont will offer 31 stakes worth $8,350,000 this fall.

There are nine Grade 1 stakes, and four of them will be offered on Sept. 29, topped by the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, a stepping-stone to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita. Flat Out, last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, and his stablemate Ron the Greek are both being pointed to the Jockey Club by their trainer, Bill Mott. Whitney Invitational winner Fort Larned, who arrived at Belmont from Saratoga on Thursday morning, is also headed to the Gold Cup.

The Sept. 29 program will also include the Grade 1 $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic featuring a possible meeting between Point of Entry, Dullahan, and Little Mike; the $400,000 Beldame which is expected to include Royal Delta, It’s Tricky, and Love Pride; the $600,000 Flower Bowl for fillies and mares on turf; and the $500,000 Vosburgh Invitational for male sprinters. The Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso at one mile on dirt is also on the card. All five stakes are part of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.

Two-year-olds will be highlighted in Grade 1 races on Oct. 6 in the Champagne (males) and Frizette (fillies). The Grade 1 Jamaica for 3-year-old turf males is also on the day’s program.

The Oct. 20 New York Showcase card features all races for New York-breds, including seven stakes topped by the $250,000 Empire Classic.

Racing at Belmont runs through Oct. 28 before this circuit moves to Aqueduct on Nov. 2.

carl & vale More than 1 year ago
How long will it be before the Gov's appointed people give jobs to their daugthers in law...brothers in law etc etc and NYRA becomes even more imcompentent then they are now if thats even possiable
Irene Davis More than 1 year ago
I love Belmont & look forward every year to the Jockey Club Gold Cup day or racing which is the best racing in the fall prior to BC in Nov.
russell More than 1 year ago
Anon- of course that is true and has been for a long time. What I stated is Cuomo is moving his own people in any day and the axe will certainly fall on some NYRA honchos. This is the obvious fact. The facilities of the Big A are atrocious. Why would I go there? The racing is so-so and continues to get worse. Emerald Downs, Tampa Bay Downs, and Laurel Park are all better facilities. Belmont got a big bump in purses but the field size didnt increase so how does that help the bettor? Of course what no one is stating is the foal population is declining EVERY year so short fields are going to be common at almost every track.
BigAfan More than 1 year ago
I don't know when you where at Aqueduct , But since the casino opened there has been a big improvement in the facility. The track is clean the racing has improved and there are many good places to eat. NYRA still needs to fix its sound system and clean up the seating area. Personalty I prefer Aqueduct over Belmont.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aqueduct serves an important purpose. If you look at NYRA's 2012 operating budget (which is available under "Financial Statement), you will see that NYRA underpays on purses November-April and then overpays (slightly during the Belmont spring/summer and Saratoga meets and greatly during the Belmont fall meet) the rest of the year. Basically, Aqueduct subsidizes the purse structure at the "better" tracks
W.G. More than 1 year ago
Even with the purse cuts, this is still a very solid structure that is far better than it has been in New York in years, with purses up substantially from past seasons. As for the "hammer" coming down on New York racing, I'm not sure Cuomo may lay it as thick as many think. If he is serious about running for President in 2016, he has to think ahead to that and realize if he does anything that harms New York racing, it could cost him big in states where racing does matter like Kentucky, Maryland and Florida, the latter in particular a state that could prove crucial to Cuomo if he did survive the primaries and made it to the general election. I'm sure his advisers have told him this as well.
Win Now More than 1 year ago
Mikey, Stop being tired and stop complaining. The Big A is great for racing and great for New York. Try something different for a change, how about helping to make it better than it ever has been?! What is better than being at the Big A in winter? Think positive and make a difference and also cash some tickets, all right at the Big A! You can do it! You too Russell!
mikey More than 1 year ago
Maybe you like going to he track with maybe 2000 in the building.No one outside all watching the TV'S.Waiting for the next horse to breakdown.This is not worth the trip.
mikey More than 1 year ago
After the fall meet stop racing.All the good horse's will head to Keenland os Santa Anita to get ready for the breeder's cup.Tired of watching the big A in the winter.Small field's cheap horse's and the best jock's leave town.( only RAMON STAY'S)
russell More than 1 year ago
The hammer will fall any day on NYRA. The fall has always been a great meet but unfortunately it's importance is greatly diminshed since the BC era. Its probably good for the national racing picture but hosting championships and snubbing Belmont is absurd.